As the UK boils during the 2019 heatwave, we’re all preparing for the hottest day of the year with the mercury tipped to hit 39° in certain areas. Unfortunately, our local wildlife can’t quite prepare like we do, and might need some help – especially the nations Hedgehog population which has recently been found to be in rapid decline.
You can help however!
There are a few simple things you can introduce into your garden to help our prickly little friends – and if you have a well tended garden you should jump at the chance. Hedgehogs are a gardeners best friend, feasting on garden nuisances and being a valuable part of your gardens ecosystem.
How can you help your local Hedgehogs?
Maintain Hedgehog highways – by making sure you have small openings in fences, you’re creating a Hedgehog friendly route system so they can move around gardens without having to resort to dangerous roads or public footpaths.
Leave hedgehog friendly spaces when you can – especially important during the breeding season, making sure there are some places for Hedgehogs to raise their Hoglets is invaluable. Make sure you do a quick check before undertaking any major garden renovations, as to not disturb any nesting sites.
Create a feeding station – feeding stations allow Hedgehogs access to food and water while discussing domestic animals such as cats and dogs from disturbing them. Food should always be placed as far from the entrance to the feeding station as possible, so that other animals can’t steal any food.
Use responsible, organic pest control – it’s no secret that a huge killer of Hedgehogs are slug pellets. With the sale of metaldehyde pellets now illegal, perhaps it’s time to start looking at alternative pest control that doesn’t have such a detrimental impact on your gardens ecosystem.
Leave some water out – as the temperatures rise, it’s worth leaving water in accessible containers for your gardens wildlife. I use BB’s Tuff Tray for this, as it’s shallow and accessible.
WARNING: DO NOT feed these foods to Hedgehogs!
Mealworms – These are incredibly high in phosphorus, which doesn’t work well with the calcium ratio that Hedgehogs have. This means that their bones will be stripped of calcium, causing something called Metabolic Bone Disease. There is no cure for this and sadly, it’s fatal – in the wild they would suffer a prolonged death as their legs would eventually stop working leaving them vulnerable. Please note that even offering these are a treat is no good, as they could be eating them in other gardens too and they will become very addicted to them as a tasty, easy meal so they can refuse to eat anything else.
Nuts – Hedgehogs teeth are not meant to chew nuts, causing bits of nut to become lodged in their teeth or back of mouth. This prevents them from eating and drinking, which will cause malnutrition and dehydration. Nuts are also high in salt and no good for their diet.
Milk – Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so giving them cows milk will cause severe diarrhoea, eventually leading to death.
Bread – This will cause bloat and digestive issues, which can be very dangerous for Hedgehogs. Feeding Hedgehogs bread soaked in milk used to be incredibly common when I was growing up, and people used to leave the meal out for their local Hedgehogs in order to help, but is most definitely not recommended these days.
What CAN I feed to visiting Hedgehogs?
Hedgehog biscuits or Hedgehog mix – this specialised food is just for our Hedgehog friends, promoting healthy teeth. It does take them a few days to get used to it, but they won’t let themselves go hungry! Using a Hedgehog specific food means domestic animals won’t be interested in it either, preferring to leave it for our prickly friends although birds do tend to finish off any leftovers.
Cat biscuits – any good quality cat biscuit is a great choice for Hedgehogs as they’re small enough for little mouths and teeth to make short work of. Flavour doesn’t matter (yes, you read that right. That’s an old wives tale!) and cat biscuits don’t freeze, turn bad or attract insects.
Wet cat or dog food – this is fine for Hedgehogs, and again the flavour doesn’t matter. The downside to using wet food is it turns bad, and attracts insects meaning it has to be changed regularly. This might not fit in with your budget as much as dry biscuits can!
With some simple changes, you can help prevent the population decline of these marvellous little critters – I don’t want BB to grow up in a UK without Hedgehogs.
I used to sit with my Nanna on her back doorstep late at night on a Friday, watching for the little black ambling shapes as they found the food we had left earlier in the night. She lives in a beautiful part of Yorkshire and we had no shortage of Hedgehogs, but because of our nights cuddled up together in thick dressing gowns holding a torch.. Hedgehogs have a very special place in my heart.